Maharajadhiraja – Prithvi Narayan Shah / पृथ्वीनारायण शाह

Maharajadhiraja – Prithvi Narayan Shah, King of Gorkha (1723–1775; Nepali: वडामहाराजधिरज पृथ्वीनारायण शाह) was the first King of unified Nepal. He is credit for starting the campaign for a unified Nepal, for Gorkha kingdom expansion. He was the ninth generation descendant of Dravya Shah (1559–1570), the founder of the ruling house of Gorkha. Prithvi Narayan Shah succeeded his father, King Nara Bhupal Shah, to the throne of the Gorkha Kingdom in 1743, at the age of 20. was the first King of unified Nepal.

Prithvi Narayan Shah
Prithvi Narayan Shah

Maharajadhiraja – Prithvi Narayan Shah (born 1723?—died 1775), member of the ruling Shah family of the Gurkha (Gorkha) principality, Nepal, who conquered the three Malla kingdoms of Kāthmāndu, Pātan, and Bhādgaon in 1769 and consolidated them to found the modern state of Nepal. He also established the capital of Nepal at Kāthmāndu.

In 1742 Maharajadhiraja – Prithvi Narayan Shah became king of Gurkha. An ambitious ruler, he was able to quickly enlarge his territory by conquering the quarrelsome and disunit principalities around Gurkha. Prithvi Nārāyaṇ’s initial attempts to establish hegemony over the three Malla kingdoms were abortive, however; the raja of Kāthmāndu enlisted the aid of the East India Company in 1767 and was able to repulse Prithvi Nārāyaṇ’s encroachments. Two years later, however, after the company’s forces been recalle, Kāthmāndu was taken. This allowed Prithvi Nārāyaṇ to consolidate his territories into a new “Kingdom of Nepal,” which he made into a unified, strong, and independent state. He then annexed Tarai, Kumāon, Garhwāl, Simla, and Sikkim in northern India, as well as large portions of the Plateau of Tibet and of the valleys of the Inner Himalayas. By conquering Makwānpur, however, he brought down upon himself the combined military forces of the East India Company and the nawab of Bengal, who together succeeded in retaking that area. Nepal at that time extended from the Punjab to Sikkim and was almost twice as large in land area as it is today.

Prithvi Narayan Shah
Prithvi Narayan Shah

Maharajadhiraja – Prithvi Narayan Shah sealed his border and maintained peaceful but distant relations with the British, refusing to trade with them. He died before he could effectively organize the administration of his new country. Upon his death, Prithvi Nārāyaṇ was succeeded by his son, Pratāp Singh Shah.

Expansion of Gorkha kindgdom
King’s reign began with an immediate military defeat; his invasion of Nuwakot in 1743 CE failed. Conquering Nuwakot was essential for the unification, as it lay between Kathmandu and the Gorkha District, making it a vital trading route to Tibet. However, he successfully conquered Nuwakot in a subsequent attack in 1744 CE. After capturing Nuwakot, he took possession of the strategic locations in the hills surrounding the Kathmandu Valley. The valley was completely cut off from the outside world and was controlled solely by Shah. He also occupied the Kuti Pass in c.1756 CE, halting all trade through the pass and preventing communication with Tibet.

After two humiliating defeats in Kirtipur, King Prithvi Narayan conquered the ancient city on his third attempt. Consequently, Jaya Prakash Malla of Kathmandu fled with his wife and took asylum in Patan, Lalitpur. He eventually began to unify his conquered lands. Weeks later, when his conquest was extend to Patan, both Jaya Prakash Malla and the King of Patan, Tej Narsingh Malla, fled again, taking refuge in Bhaktapur, which itself was conquered by Prithvi Narayan later.

Prithvi Narayan Shah
Prithvi Narayan Shah

Death and legacy
After losing the war of Nuwakot
my father mostly prayed at home

while I walked the streets of Gorkha
rubbing shoulders with the brave

one day I conquered Nuwakot
reversing my father’s defeat

my victory turned into a vision
One king – one kingdom

after long wait and many defeats
I finally conquered Kirtipur

Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur
fell as a pack of cards

kings fled from palace to palace

and an age ended forever

from Mechi to Mahakali
my sword wove a new garland

the air is still fresh
with its fragrance.“””

Prithivi Narayan Shah: A Poem by Abhay K.

Prithvi Narayan Shah
Prithvi Narayan Shah

King Prithvi Narayaṇ Shah was ultimately able to capture small principalities and annex them into Gorkha. This expansion was crucial as the British colonial forces already begun colonizing the small kingdoms that form present-day India. Shah was convinc that the British forces would eventually approach his kingdom. He believe that 50 small principalities would easily be conquered by the British as part of their colonization strategy. Expanding his kingdom made it more difficult for British forces to make their move. His expansion campaign was very ambitious, especially as he was the king of a relatively small kingdom surrounded by strong and powerful neighbours.

In January 1775, at the age of 52, Shah died before he could effectively organise the administration of his new country at Devighat, Nuwakot. Upon his death his son, Pratap Singh Shah, succeed him and his unification campaign was continu by his younger son, Bahadur Shah.

A poem by poet Abhay K recounts the legacy of Prithivi Narayan Shah.

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